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Bolivia

Volunteering in Cochabamba 2

The Last 2 Weeks

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During my third week in Cochabamba, the 7th and last Harry Potter movie was released and I went to see it at the cinema at midnight with my host family. Since we were a big group, we had to be there early to make sure we could all sit together. This meant hours of queuing, made even worse by the fact that we were almost the last screen to be let in. In the end it did not matter though because we all enjoyed the movie a lot. The end of all Harry Potter stories!

On Thursday some volunteers from Sustainable Bolivia had rented a bus for their leaving celebration, which we used as a party bus. We were partying on the bus while being driven all around Cochabamba and the bus stopped at some bars/clubs, although I only stayed until the others got on the bus again after the first bar because it was late already and I had to work the next morning. This was such a cool idea and a fun night.
On the party bus

On the party bus

That weekend, I went, with 5 other people, to the Chapare, a region in the jungle not far from Cochabamba. We travelled to Villa Tunari, the main town. From there we visited some natural pools on the first day and went to Parque Machía, an Ecological Reserve. Here we saw many monkeys and some other animals. We had a nice relaxing weekend and I enjoyed it not being cold at night for once too.
In the Chapare

In the Chapare


In the Chapare

In the Chapare


In the Chapare

In the Chapare


In the Chapare

In the Chapare

On Sunday afternoon, we tried to get a transportation back. There are only a few buses a day, so that most people get a kind of taxi for 7 people. To get there, this was simple and quick. However, going back proved more difficult. We had to queue to be put on a waiting list, this already took about 20 minutes. Then we had to wait for our turn to get on a free taxi. Since we were 6 people and almost filled a whole car, we had to wait about 1 1/2 hours until finally they could get us on a taxi. By this time, it was pouring rain and soon it started getting dark and foggy as well. After about 1 1/2 hours drive, we stopped at the site of an accident. A car had gone off the road because of the bad weather. Our driver went to see what had happened and if he could help. He came back with a woman who was asking us whether we could make space for a man injured in the accident. She said he was dieing and we had to take him to the next hospital. So we did. A little boy was also put into our car. The boy was crying for his mother who was in another car behind us, while we tried to help the man who had a head injury. Luckily, we had a medical student with us who knew what to do and took care of the man as good as possible in the car. 30 minutes later we reached the next town with a hospital, where the injured was taken care of. He was alright in the end and we drove on. I was wondering again why things like that kept happening to (or around) me...

In my last week, I met up with some of my friends a few times and Thursday we had a pizza night at the Sustainable Bolivia house. Some guys had prepared the dough and sauce and we could make our own pizzas with the toppings they had bought. A very tasty pizza!

On Saturday morning, I went with a friend to visit the Palacio Portales, a beautiful palace built for Simon I. Patiño, who in the end never lived in the house because he died before he could retire there. The palace is decorated mainly with materials and items from other countries, mostly from Europe. By coincidence, there was also an event in the palace's gardens that day. Bolivian writers were there to present and sell their books. We looked at the books for a while and could not resist: we both had to buy a few books. The authors even signed them for us. Now I have got a lot of reading material for the next weeks.
Palacio Portales

Palacio Portales

Saturday night, we celebrated my and another girl's goodbye and a birthday. We started in the SB house and then later on went dancing. This was it then, I would be leaving Cochabamba in 2 days...
My goodbye party

My goodbye party


My goodbye party

My goodbye party

The Sunday I spent with my host family and at night, I went to see Transformers 3.
On Monday it was time to say goodbye at work. So sad to know I'll never see the children again :-(
To finish off my Cochabamba sightseeing, I walked around the city some more and went to the Arqueological Mueum that afternoon. They have some really interesting objects and mummies from pre-Colombian cultures in the area.
Cochabamba

Cochabamba


Cochabamba

Cochabamba


The Cristo seen from the city

The Cristo seen from the city

After a last dinner and packing the rest of my things, I was accompanied by some of my host family to the bus terminal and I got on a bus to La Paz, from where I would travel straight on to Puno in Peru. So this was the end of my (great) time in Bolivia :-(
With my host family

With my host family


Waiting for the bus with my host family

Waiting for the bus with my host family

Posted by sarahm_lux 21:55 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Volunteering in Cochabamba 1

The First 2 Weeks

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On Sunday, 26th June, at 1pm, I got a bus from La Paz to Cochabamba. After driving for about 15 minutes - we weren't even really out of La Paz yet - the driver braked really suddenly and then stopped in the middle of he motorway. There was first some confusion and then we found out that we had ran over a person. Obviously, running over a person on the motorway means that that person had been walking across the motorway, and this in a spot where there was a bridge at about 10m distance... Still, hearing this was a shock and the situation on the bus got quite chaotic, people asking questions, nobody knowing the answers, everyone giving their comments on the situation etc. After about 1 1/2 hours we were ready to continue our journey as a replacement bus had been arranged for pretty quickly (especially for Bolivian standards). In a bus full with Bolivians, I was lucky not to be the only foreigner on the bus; there were two of us. So when we arrived in Cochabamba with 2-3 hours delay at 10pm, we went to a hostel together. We then tried to find some food, but it turned out that Cochabamba was dead on a Sunday night and the only food we could find was a burger from a street stall. Not quite what we had imagined, but it was a tasty burger :-)

The next morning I met up with the staff from Sustainable Bolivia, the organisation through which I had arranged my volunteer work. After visiting their office and getting some general information, I was brought to my host family. The day I arrived happened to be my host mothers birthday, so that I met a large part of the (big!) family that day; some came over for lunch, others for dinner. There was birthday cake and a lot of conversation. I immediately liked my host family. They were really nice and we got along well. I was living with the mother, grandmother and two sons. The food they prepared was really good too (and so much!), mostly typical Bolivian dishes.

That evening, for the first time in 6 months, I was able to unpack and put all my clothes into a wardrobe, knowing that I would not have to pack them again for a whole month! I still have no problems with living out of a backpack, even after so much time, but this was a great feeling. After having some more time to settle in on Tuesday, I finally started working on Wednesday. I had no fixed working hours in the hospital, so that I could come and go whenever I wanted to - very handy. I also had several hospital wards I could choose from, for example surgery, infectology and burns. I spent most of my time on the malnutrition ward though. Of course I found this one most interesting for myself, but I also went there because most of the malnourished children have either no parents or they live in the countryside and cannot afford to come into the city a lot. This means that most of these children very rarely or never get any visitors. They are also younger than most children on the other wards, so that they do not really play with each other yet and need an adult to play with them. Some of them need to be fed too, so that I could help with this.

Sustainable Bolivia organises quite a lot of activities during the week. I took part in some of these in my first two weeks in Cochabamba and met some really nice people who I ended up spending a lot of time with. The Welsh guy who was on my bus from La Paz also started taking Spanish classes through SB, so that we met again in my first week and saw each other a lot afterwards. So what did I do in this city except for working? I watched a couple of Bolivian movies, I took part in a salsa class, I went to the Urban Fest, where I watched a skateboarding and BMX competition, I went to a traditional Quechua ritual where offerings are made to Pachamama (mother Earth) on the first Friday of each month, I went out for dinner and to watch Bolivia play in the Copa America, I went to La Cancha, the biggest open air market in Latin America, and I had some great nights out, dancing till late in the morning.
Urban Fest

Urban Fest


Night out in Cochabamba

Night out in Cochabamba


Night out in Cochabamba

Night out in Cochabamba


Night out in Cochabamba

Night out in Cochabamba

On the first Sunday morning, I went up to the Cristo with my host family and on Monday night we had a 4th of July barbecue at Sustainable Bolivia.
The Cristo

The Cristo


View from the Cristo

View from the Cristo


View from the Cristo

View from the Cristo


View from the Cristo

View from the Cristo


At the Cristo

At the Cristo

As you can read, there was a lot going on in Cochabamba and I had a great first 2 weeks there.

Unfortunately, the bad luck that had started with the horrible bus journey into the city continued while I was in Cochabamba. Most bad things that happened were annoying, but not that important. The fact that I saw a man pull a girl into a car and drive away with her was not one of them though... Kidnapping in the middle of the city centre on a Friday afternoon is quite a scary thing. I was not very happy either when I realised that my IPod had disappeared. This meant I had to go hunting (successfully) for some cheap MP3 player which hopefully will last me the rest of my time in Latin America. Luckily, I have my computer with me which has a lot of music on it.

Posted by sarahm_lux 14:38 Archived in Bolivia Tagged cochabamba Comments (0)

Adventures in the Bolivian Pampas

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On 18th June, we got a flight from La Paz to Rurrenabaque in the Bolivian jungle. From there, you can take tours in the jungle and in the pampas. We decided on the pampas tour because you can see many more animals there than in the jungle.

The flight to Rurrenabaque was an adventure already in itself. We got on a tiny plane with only 18 passengers. Safety instructions or any personnel other than the pilot and co-pilot did not exist. You could also see the cockpit during the whole flight. It was only supposed to be a 45-minute flight to Rurre. We did in fact arrive above the town on time. However, after flying above the area for about 10 minutes, the pilot turned around and told us the weather was too bad, he could not see the runway and we had to turn around and fly back to La Paz. So we did. We flew back to where we came from, got off the plane, waited about 30 minutes while the plane got refuelled and then got on the plane again. We gave it another try to get to Rurrenabaque before sunset. Luckily, the clouds had cleared away and we were able to land now. I think I have been in South America for too long now because I was not even very surprised about this strange journey.
Our plane

Our plane


On the plane

On the plane

After a quiet night with good dinner, happy hour cocktails and card games, we set off on the Pampas Tour the next morning.

It started with a 3-hour jeep ride. We then had lunch and finally met our guide and boat. We took a 2 1/2 hour boat ride where we saw many animals on the river shores and in the water. Caymans, alligators, birds, monkeys, turtles and capybaras (the rodents that look like massive guinea pigs) were everywhere.
Animals in the pampas

Animals in the pampas


Animals in the pampas

Animals in the pampas


Animals in the pampas

Animals in the pampas


Animals in the pampas

Animals in the pampas


Animals in the pampas

Animals in the pampas

After all this exciting animal spotting, we got to our lodge, which would be the base for all our excursions in the pampas in the next 2 days. We settled into our rooms and then left again on the boat to go see the sunset and have some beers at the Sunset Bar.
Sunset in the pampas

Sunset in the pampas


In the pampas

In the pampas

When it was dark, we set off again and we went looking for alligator eyes; they shine orange when you point a light at them in the dark. We saw loads of them.

Back at the lodge, we had a great dinner and then drank some wine we bought at the bar while being surrounded by what felt like hundreds of weird insects (I had the worst spot, sitting underneath a light bulb...).

I woke up in the night hearing some big-sounding insect constantly flying against my mosquito net. Luckily we had really good mosquito nets which were also green so that I could luckily not see anything through them and did not have to see what insect was trying to get to me.

The next morning, it was time to go looking for anacondas. Unfortunately, we did not find any of the snakes, but it was still exciting.
We went back to the lodge for lunch and a nice siesta in the hammocks before we went piranha fishing. These fish are apparently really intelligent because they kept nibbling the meat off around our hooks. The group still caught about 10 fish in total, although I did not catch any :-(
Fishing piranhas

Fishing piranhas

This night we went to a different place to see the sunset. Here, many of the different tour groups met and some people were playing volleyball or football.
Afterwards, we went back to our accommodation, where the piranhas were grilled and served for dinner. They were tasty, but there is not much meat on the small fish.
Grilled piranhas

Grilled piranhas

At 6am the next morning we were woken up by our guide to go see a beautiful sunrise in the grasslands.
Sunrise in the pampas

Sunrise in the pampas

Sunrise in the pampas

Sunrise in the pampas

After breakfast, it was time to go see and swim with the pink dolphins. Although the dolphins did not get close enough to us to touch, it was great to see them swimming everywhere around us and appearing out of the water only a couple of meters in front of us

This was the end of our adventures in the Pampas. After lunch, we took the boat back to the starting point. Here we waited for our jeep which brought us back to Rurrenabaque. It was only 4pm when we got there, so that we had some time to relax and see the town. We then went for dinner and more cocktails ;-)
Cocktails in Rurrenabaque

Cocktails in Rurrenabaque

Cocktails in Rurrenabaque

Cocktails in Rurrenabaque

The next morning, we got breakfast from the French bakery (so yummy!) and then took a flight back to La Paz.

Posted by sarahm_lux 17:37 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Lake Titicaca

Copacabana and Isla del Sol

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2 days after my mum, Wujhel and I had arrived in La Paz, we took a bus to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca.
Copacabana

Copacabana


Copacabana

Copacabana

It is a very small and very touristy town, but very quiet and good to relax, especially while drinking cocktails or eating nice food on the terrace of a bar next to the lake.
Copacabana

Copacabana


Copacabana

Copacabana

We spent an afternoon in Copacabana and the next morning took a boat to Isla del Sol. Unfortunately, that day did not go as we had planned at all. First, we arrived in the North of the island and wanted to go see the ruins in that area. However, walking in the direction of the ruins, it was hillier than we had expected and since two of us were ill and my mum still could not breathe well at this altitude, we ended up turning back before we reached the ruins. On the way we had walked, we got some great views of the lake and the island though, so it was worth the effort.
Isla del Sol

Isla del Sol


Isla del Sol

Isla del Sol


Isla del Sol

Isla del Sol


Isla del Sol

Isla del Sol

We got back to Challapampa where we ate something. After lunch, however, we found out that the last boat leaving the North of the island had already left (at 1.30pm!). We could thus either stay there the night or get a private boat to the South of the island. We decided to walk to the next village, Challa, and get a private boat from there. We had been told that the walk there was quite flat, not much up and down. Well, this was definitely not true! The hills we had to cross were not as high and steep as on the rest of the island, but still it was hilly and quite exhausting.
Isla del Sol

Isla del Sol

We finally got to Challa and started talking to the boat owners about a ride to Yumani, in the South of the island. Finding a boat that would take us there was not as easy as we had been told in Challapampa either, so that it took some discussion to convince one of the men to take us and a German girl who had ended up there too to take us to Yumani for a reasonable price. In the end, we got a boat and arrived in time for the girl to get her boat back to Copacabana. We then decided to get on this boat too and go back to the mainland (originally, we had wanted to stay on the island 1 night, but we couldn't be bothered anymore now). When we got back, we checked into a really nice, but cheap, hotel with a great view over the lake. I then went to see a doctor again because my cough just wouldn't go away. I got some more medication and we then went for dinner and spent the rest of the night in the hotel watching tv (how weird to be watching tv again, but just the right thing to do then...).

The next morning, we woke up and heard water running somewhere. At first we thought it was someone in the room next door having a shower, but it wouldn't stop, we heard some strange noises from outside the room and suddenly we realised that water was flowing into our room from underneath the door. We went outside to check what was happening and realised that some pipe must have burst and the hotel was completely under water. The staff were standing in the corridors trying to keep the water out of the rooms. We had to wait for over an hour for someone to come fix the damage before we could finally leave the room and go have breakfast. We got a bus back to La Paz that afternoon.

Posted by sarahm_lux 13:53 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

La Paz

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We flew to La Paz on 12th June and kept coming and going until 26th June. The first time we stayed there for 2 days. We explored the city a bit, went to the Coca Museum and made plans for our trips to Lake Titicaca and the Pampas. We were staying at the Adventure Brew Hostel, where we got a free beer from their brewery every night and we had pancakes for breakfast. On our first night there, we took part in the pub quiz, in which we came second and we played together with an English guy who had had a part of his finger bitten off by a piranha on the Pampas tour (we got slightly worried about the piranha fishing ;-) ).

We then left for 3 days to go to Lake Titicaca. When we came back, none of us were feeling too well, I was ill again and the others had problems with the altitude, so that we decided not to do too much and relax to be feeling better for the Pampas. The day we flew to Rurrenabaque was the day of the Gran Poder, the biggest festivity in the streets of La Paz. It is a religious celebration and there are massive groups in costumes dancing through the streets of La Paz. Since our flight was only in the afternoon, we got the chance to watch a part of this from the balcony in our hostel, probably one of the best spots in the city to watch the parade.
La Paz - Gran Poder

La Paz - Gran Poder


La Paz - Gran Poder

La Paz - Gran Poder


La Paz - Gran Poder

La Paz - Gran Poder


La Paz - Gran Poder

La Paz - Gran Poder

So then we left again for 4 days and a third time came back to La Paz. My mum and Wujhel only had 2 more days left in Bolivia. The first day, we decided to do some shopping. We all bought some presents for people at home and some nice cheap clothes and other souvenirs for ourselves. The next day, it was time for some more sightseeing. We walked around some parts of La Paz which we had not seen yet and in the afternoon took the sightseeing bus for a city tour.
La Paz

La Paz


La Paz

La Paz


La Paz

La Paz


La Paz

La Paz

The tour gave really interesting information and was a great way to see this city which is so hilly and at such a high altitude that you don't really want to walk around that much. It also finally gave us a chance to take some photos of the city from above when we stopped at a mirador.
La Paz

La Paz

For our last dinner, we went to an Argentinean restaurant where we ate some amazing Argentinean beef, even better than some of the meat I have eaten in Argentina. We finished the evening with some drinks in a German bar/restaurant called Reineke Fuchs, which has its own brewery and makes really nice beer.
La Paz - in Reineke Fuchs

La Paz - in Reineke Fuchs


La Paz - in Reineke Fuchs

La Paz - in Reineke Fuchs

The next morning, the others left to fly back home and I was left alone again ;-(

When we came to La Paz for the 3rd time, we had moved to the Wild Rover. Hostel After having been to both hostels of this chain in Peru and had really liked them, I wanted to see what the one in La Paz is like. So I spent my last 2 nights in La Paz there. During the 2 days I had to sort out some things like get the time I am allowed to stay in Bolivia prolonged at immigration and get myself a Bolivian phone number. I also went to some museums, which were very small, but good since they showed a lot of the history of La Paz and its traditions.

I was also on a mission to go out at least one night in La Paz. I ended up not going further than the hostel bar on the first night, but I did finally go out the last night (after having gone to an Indian restaurant with one of my roommates for dinner that night; my first real curry since I left Europe!). Because the club I went to was where my hostel and Loki were telling people to go to that night, it was really crowded and full with people from the two hostels. There were only a few locals mixed in with that. Well, at least we all knew a lot of people in there... The whole going out in La Paz thing was slightly disappointing because the club was tiny and not very nice. Still, it was a good night.

Posted by sarahm_lux 13:28 Archived in Bolivia Tagged machu_picchu la_paz Comments (0)

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